Brandon Phillips has not been as bad as people may want to lead on in 2016. In fact, it has been a steady decline for the 35-year old.
Phillips has not been as good all season as his five consecutive multi-hit efforts the he has been on through Sunday.
He has not been as bad all season as his .233 May where he was just 24-for-103 in the month. He has also not been as bad as his .608 OPS in June that had many calling for his head.
Sure, the veteran second baseman does not fit into the rebuild and is not putting up the power numbers that we are all accustomed to, but he has been pretty solid and consistent at the position much of the season.
Additionally, Phillips has been playing through leg and hand injuries much of the season. Remember, he is still playing through a fractured hand that happened just before the All-Star break.
The main issue with Phillips in 2016 is that he has not shown the power that the Reds were used to seeing from him from 2007 to 2009, where he hit 30, 21, and 20 home runs respectively. Phillips then hit 18 bombs each in 2010 to 2013. He made a name for himself as one of the top power hitting second basemen…and got paid like it.
However, this decline has been a trend that has been ongoing for three seasons now. Through 395 at bats in the 2016 season, Phillips has hit eight home runs and 22 doubles. That is actually an improvement on both his 2014 and 2015 seasons in the same number of plate appearances.
Additionally, Phillips ranks 19th in Major League baseball second basemen with a .714 OPS through Sunday. This is a far cry from where he was in the early 2010s, but still not entirely awful.
Phillips has also lost a step defensively from where he was in his perennial Gold Glove seasons. So far in the 2016 season, it is the first time since 2006 that Phillips is in the negative in Rdrs (Defensive Runs Saved Above Average). His range has become more limited and it has shown.
The issue that Phillips runs into is his contract. He is not hitting for what he is paid for. However, that is a common issue when it comes to players who sign big, multi-year deals later in their careers. When the end of the deal is reached, the player is paid for what they have done, rather than what they are doing currently.
Additionally, the rebuild creates an issue. Could either Dilson Herrera or Jose Peraza come up and duplicate Phillips’ play on the field? That is still debatable, but the team is being built for 2017-18 and beyond. Continually playing Phillips over those two only cuts into their big league experience and possibly stunts the long-term growth.
On the opposite end, sitting an eventual Reds Hall of Famer is an extremely tough decision when he is still capable of playing. The Reds are between a rock and a hard place on what to do with Phillips after this season.
They have made no bones about the fact that he is staying the starting second baseman in 2016. The mismanagement of Peraza at the big league level has done nothing but add pressure to the situation. There is currently nothing wrong with Peraza and Herrera getting used to playing next to each other in Triple-A, as they have next to no experience doing so.
The problem comes into play when you look at when they are ready for the next step. Herrera now has 695 Triple-A at bats through Sunday and is hitting .301 with an .839 OPS. Peraza has 728 at bats at the level and is hitting .287 with a .685 OPS.
Getting a few more at bats in the upper Minor League levels cannot hurt either the 22-year-old duo of Peraza and Herrera. They are still young and can use some seasoning.
Still, at some point, the Reds have to see what they have in the duo at the big league level to assess the rebuild.
The road block to this, is the 2017 version of Brandon Phillips. With the consistent decline, it has to be expected that Phillips will take another step back next season.
How long are the Reds willing to stick with Phillips, when the next generation needs to be assessed? That is the question to answer for the front office.